Children and the writing on the wall

Milestones. The excitement and pride that comes as we watch our children grow and reach their first milestones in life is a beautiful thing. Her first word; his first step; their first drawing on the wall?

Not so much. Generally, children begin to grasp the art of scribbling when they are about 18 months old – great for their cognitive and motor skills, but not so great when your wall is their canvas.

In today’s article we’ve put together a few tips that will allow your child, you and your walls (and furniture) enjoy this developmental stage in your child’s learning.

Provide an appropriate and comfortable place for your child to get artistic. Ensure that early on your child understands which surfaces are acceptable for drawing or scribbling on.

Buy her things like colouring books, plain papers, notebooks, a blackboard or whiteboard and agree that these are the only surfaces she is allowed to scribble on and that there will be consequences if this rule is broken.

Discourage writing or drawing anywhere else and try designating an area in the home where she can sit and draw.

Spend time with her as she draws and allow her to explain her art even if what she describes isn’t what you see – learning is a process and at this point, your attention and pride at her milestones in learning will encourage her to keep trying.

If you do find your child has written on the wall or any other surface, tell them where drawing should be done – “Drawing is done on paper, not on the wall.”

Try not to explode in anger as the damage has been done but be stern enough for your child to understand that they have done something wrong.

Although anger is only natural especially if your living room is now home to an unplanned mural, too harsh a punishment might only instill fear and kill your child’s creativity and eagerness to learn.

Instead, after you have explained that drawing is not done on walls (or perhaps given a reminder), your child should clean up the mess he has made on the wall or furniture.

Provide him with water and let him labour for a while trying to restore the surface to it’s original state. No other fun activity should be permitted until the cleaning is done, as this is a lesson for him.

Hopefully the drawing is not permanent and will come off even if not completely – the idea is for your child to understand the consequences of drawing on the wrong places and experience the hard work of cleaning it up.

Keep art supplies like paint, pencils, crayons and permanent markers out of reach like on a high shelf, cabinet or safely locked away and only allow your children to use them when they are drawing or writing.

As soon as they are done using them, allow your children to collect and clean all their supplies and help them put everything safely out of reach until it is time to use them again.

Avoid having the random crayon lying around as this may lead to undue temptation. Try to buy washable non-toxic crayons, paints, and markers for your children to use.

Remember things like charcoal can also double as chalk for children to draw with so if you use charcoal in the home, ensure it is out of reach. Always supervise your children when they are in their drawing space.

They are young and will sometimes stray or be tempted to decorate your white wallsor other surfaces with their beautiful art. If your child stops drawing on her paper or her books and starts drawing on other surfaces, then everything should be put away for the day.

Explain to her that drawing time has been cut short because she has broken the rules that both of you agreed on – drawing is only done in colouring books, on plain papers, notebooks, a blackboard or whiteboard.

Remember to always show your child that you notice and appreciate when they draw on the right place.Take time to see what it is they are drawing; show a genuine interest in their work – whatever it is they are drawing or writing so that they can be encouraged to learn further.

Who knows, you may very well have your own Picasso or Ngugi wa Thiong’o right in your living room. For comments and/or inquires please call 116 National Child Helpline.

This is a toll free service available across all networks in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar. Facebook: Sema Tanzania; Twitter: @SemaTanzania or visit our website: www.sematanzania.org

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Author: Sema Tanzania

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